From the historian Mark Mazower, writing in this weekend’s Financial Times:
“The European Union emerged out of the the second world war with one main goal: to ensure the peace. It has done the job so well that many Europeans now assume peace can look after itself. The same war turned the US into the world’s leading power, the creator of global institutions and norms. President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim countries underscores his intent to turn his back on this role. The war on terror will trump international obligations to refugees; outright discrimination will trump both.”
This morning’s Observer column:
Let us pause for a moment to mourn the passing of Hans Rosling , one of the most gifted and humane educators of our age. He was professor of global health at Sweden’s prestigious Karolinska Institute and became famous when he gave a spectacular TED talk in 2006 using global data to show how the world had changed during the 20th century. Rosling specialised in devising striking ways of visualising statistical data and in using computers to provide animations showing, for example, how child mortality, family income and so on changed over time. But what probably clinched his fame was the way he talked his audience through the evolving worldview with a manic energy reminiscent of Newsnight’s Peter Snow and his general election night “swingometer”.
Rosling’s untimely death (from cancer) seems particularly poignant at this moment in our history, because he was such a fervent believer in the idea that we could find illumination, if not salvation, in facts. In that respect, he reminded me of the late David MacKay, another gentle polymath, who was for a time the chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. At a lecture following the publication of his book, Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air, he was assailed by an angry environmentalist who asked him why he was “so hostile” to wind power. MacKay smiled sweetly and replied: “I’m not hostile to anything. I’m just in favour of arithmetic.”
I thought about Rosling and MacKay a lot last week as the “fake news” crisis deepened…